By 2030, over one-third of U.S. auto sales could be electric vehicles (EV). Fueled by growing consumer awareness of environmental issues and escalating gas prices, the exponential growth of EV use means that now is the time for multifamily property owners, managers, and developers to get EV-ready. Studies indicate that 85% of EV charging happens at home, so EV charging must be accessible for multifamily dwellers. To keep pace with the market and comply with a growing number of state and municipal building codes, multifamily properties must have EV-ready parking spaces; the question is not when but how. Amid evolving technologies and an explosion of platform options for EV-charging stations, preparing to meet EV-readiness requirements is a challenging prospect. Below are some important considerations for multifamily owners, managers, and developers as they begin their EV-readiness projects.
During the predesign phase:
Conduct an energy feasibility review
With so many emerging EV charging technologies in the marketplace, an energy feasibility review is an important step in planning for new development. Such a review may include the following: an evaluation of charging technologies and electrical infrastructures; a comparison of EV software and hardware, network integration, installation requirements, payment schedule, and maintenance; the research of county, state, federal, and utility-level incentive and rebate programs; and electrical consumption and EV utility rate analysis for capital planning. It is prudent to coordinate with the selected EV charging vendor to provide utility load capacity analysis for the project. For those who wishing to go green and save money in the long run, it’s worth evaluating renewable energy and energy storage options as they can typically offset the higher electric utility charges associated with EV charging.
During the preconstruction phase:
Incorporate ADA and Accessibility Compliance
EV charging stations have gone from a luxury amenity to a necessity. Many would argue that meeting the current minimal requirements is short-sighted. Beyond the location of the charging stations, and electrical infrastructure, EV charging design should include ADA and accessibility compliance. Although there are no federal laws that regulate Accessible EV charging station spaces, select state and local building codes have incorporated accessibility requirements. This includes providing a specific number of accessible EV spaces with specified size, ground surface, and reach ranges. An accessibility consultant can review design documents for ADA compliance (as well as compliance to other applicable regulations). During the construction phase, an accessibility consultant can monitor construction to ensure the installation is performed to spec and compliance is achieved.
Engage the Right Engineer(s)
Since site conditions and requirements vary, trenching for plumbing, electrical wire, and EV station installation will require different levels of engineering expertise. There are slightly different approaches to retrofitting existing sites vs new construction. When adding or integrating EV charging to an existing site, the process must be carefully sequenced to avoid missing items when underground work is performed. Ground up construction presents its own challenges, as the capacities and demands will all need to be verified to ensure the building inspector will sign off on the installed systems. EV is an emerging technology; there are disconnects between building departments and inspectors as this technology is still being adopted. Rural municipalities are still in the early stages of the learning curve.
If permitting is required for new development, a site civil engineer could support site evaluation, design, permitting, and construction. At times, a geotechnical design report may be needed for subgrade preparation, site improvements, and other project requirements. The geotechnical engineer will research and coordinate exploration to obtain soil information for analysis and generate a report to be used by a civil engineer, structural engineer, or architect for design. Underground utility location could be included in this scope. If there is a retro fit requirement for a parking lot, it’s prudent to involve a structural engineer. Proper closeout will ensure that the owner knows who the supplier of the equipment is and this will also ensure that the warranty stays intact to protect the investment.
Engage the Right Consultants
In addition to designing and building physical structure of the station and its surroundings, there is also the process of selecting and implementing the technology platform that enables the charging station. Will the system rely on cellular or Wi-Fi connection? Some EV charging systems have problems toggling between 4G and 5G networks. Then there are business/administrative questions to consider: can the EV charging stations be monetized? How can you capture applicable rebates and incentives? These facets demand a diverse range of expertise, so finding an experienced consultant who can help you navigate the process is critical.
In the highly competitive world of multifamily housing, EV charging stations are an important amenity. While the process may seem daunting at first, with careful planning and design, EV-readiness presents an opportunity for property owners and developers to attract quality tenants and boost CAP rates.